Pankration (Pancration, Pancratium, Pankratium)
Known as the "Game of All Powers".
and kratos and is translated to mean "all powers" or "all-encompassing." First introduced into the Olympic Games of 648 BC (the same year as the horse race), Pankration would soon become the most popular and most demanding of all athletic events. It would be well to note that a subdivision, "Boy's Pankration", was added in the 2nd century BC, which indicates the popularity of the sport. Also, before we go any farther into the history, it should be noted that some historians trace Pankration's origin to the Indian Vajramushti system. There is controversy here, because Pankration and the Pyrrhic dance, a Greek armed and unarmed war-dance similar to modern karate kata, both predate Indian statues depicting temple guardians in poses similar to those used in fighting systems to follow.
In the palaestra , the Greek wrestling school, Pankration was allocated a separate room to train. It was known as the Korykeion, which was equipped with punching and kicking balls, called korykos, which hung from the ceiling beams. The smaller balls were used for punching and the larger ones for kicking, which hung about 2 feet from the floor. Pankration was taught similar to modern day karate, as it was presented in steps or stages until the student had become proficient in the movements and their combinations. After reaching a certain stage, the practitioner would then be allowed to engage in "loose play", as it is called in fencing.
Pankration integrated every physical and mental resource - hands and feet, mind and spirit - in the closest simulation of no-holds-barred competitive fighting that any culture has ever allowed. The object was, as in boxing, to force an opponent to acknowledge defeat, and to this end almost any means might be applied. Though rules were enforced by officials with a switch or stout rod, a whipping must have been more desirable than being killed, for the rules were often broken. Serious injuries and fatal accidents did occur, but they were rare, rarer probably than in ancient Greek boxing. Facing one another, much as in the position taken by wrestlers, Pankratiast's, as they were called, tried to bring one another violently to the ground.
There was much preliminary sparring. Hands were are and generally held open, although the clenched fist was used for hitting. Only biting and gouging were prohibited. Anything else went, although the tough Spartan contingent allowed these, too, in their local athletic festivals. As in Greek boxing, there were no rules against hitting a man when he was down. The techniques included a murderous mixture of Hellenic boxing and wrestling, hook and uppercut punches, full-powered kicks, elbowing and kneeing, joint locks, as well as numerous submission chokeholds. Such throws as the flying mare and various foot and leg holds, although too risky for Greek wrestling proper, were freely employed. A Pankratiast would sometimes throw himself on his back to accomplish a throw, known today as Sacrifice Throws.
In this same family of throw, known as the Stomach Throw, the Pankratiast would grab his opponent by the shoulders or arms and throw himself backwards, planting his foot in his opponent's stomach, pulling him over his head. This throw is known today as TomoeNage. This technique may have been used by the ancient Egyptians, as this technique is depicted in the tombs of Beni-Hassan.
Although knockouts were common, most Pankration battles were decided on the ground where both striking and submission techniques would freely come into play. Pankratiast's were highly-skilled grapplers and were extremely effective in applying a variety of takedowns, chokes, and punishing joint locks.
The feats of the ancient pankratiast's became legendary in the annals of Greek athletics. Stories abound of past champions and masters who were considered invincible beings. Arrichion, Dioxxipus, and Polydamos are among the most highly-recognized names, their accomplishments defying the odds by besting multiple armed opponents in "life and death" combat, and battling and killing lions when human competition was no longer a feasible challenge. It is also theorized that the famed strongman Hercules was the first Olympic victor in Pankration. Another fact, with reference to Dioxxipus (a friend of Alexander the Great), won the Olympic crown by default in 336 BC because no one would compete against him. Later as Alexander marched in conquest across the world, his armies carried with them elaborate tents, that were like collapsible amphitheaters.